Cooking with fire is cool, but if you really want to do something impressive, prepare you food with a solar oven. Think about it: you can take solar rays travelling 92 million miles through space, and then concentrate them to cook your chicken breasts to perfection.
If you want to cook with a solar oven, here’s what you need to know.
DIY Solar Ovens
You don’t actually need silicon-based photovoltaic solar panels in order to create a solar oven. All you need is something reflective in order to concentrate the power of the sun and something to cook your food.
That means that it’s possible to build your own solar oven, usually with stuff from around your house (and possibly one cheap visit to your local hardware store).
Here’s what you’ll need :
- Two cardboard boxes (They can also be wood boxes if you have them and don’t mind using a saw)
- Foam insulation (About 1 inch thick)
- Reflective Duct Tape
- Aluminum foil
- Glass panels (This is optional, but they make for a stronger oven)
Here’s how to put it all together.
- Glue the foam insulation to the inside of one of the boxes.
- Cut the flaps off the second box and tape them to the edges of the flaps of the first box, so they’re twice as long.
- Poking the skewers into the side of the box, position the panels so the sunlight will bounce off the walls.
- Hold the flaps in place by cutting triangles out of the second box and taping them to the outside of your oven.
- Duct tape reflective aluminum foil to the flaps and place the insulation on the inside of the box.
- If you prefer, you can place your oven on your second box as a stand.
Your final product should look something like this.
That’s basically it. As long as the sunlight is going straight into the oven, then it will get hot enough to cook your food.
High-Tech Solar Ovens
If you don’t feel like going the DIY route, you can also purchase a solar oven online and at most hardware stores. While most commercial solar ovens are variations of the “box oven” described above, some companies have also produced more innovative models.
For example, the Gosun solar oven lets you cook food in a solar-heated vacuum tube. This allows the oven to reach hotter temperatures than typical solar ovens, allegedly up to 290°C.
These models are a bit more expensive than typical solar ovens (the cheapest models start at $279), but they have earned a fair amount of press and industry attention. The GoSun was recognized with an “Innovation Award” from CES in 2016.
How To Cook With A Solar Oven
While a solar oven doesn’t get as hot as the oven you use in your kitchen, it can still get hot enough to cook your food. Typically solar ovens reach temperatures of 150°C (302°F). You should use all the same precautions you would with a conventional oven, such as using oven mitts when handling anything inside.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your solar oven.
- Use Dark-Colored Pots: Pots should preferably be black in order to absorb as much light and heat as possible. Reflective or light-colored pots are less likely to get hot enough to cook your food.
- Use Thin Pots: Pots made of thick material, such as ceramic, take longer to heat up than other kinds.
- Allow For About Double The Normal Cooking Time: You can cook most recipes in your cookbooks in a solar oven, but due to the decreased temperature, you should expect to take it roughly twice as long. So you can still cook things like chicken wings or potatoes, but you shouldn’t attempt to cook a Thanksgiving turkey with a solar oven.
- Ideal Conditions Are Low Wind And Zero Clouds: Environmental conditions affect solar cooking greatly. For example, if you cook on a partly cloudy and breezy day, expect your food to take longer.
What Can You Cook With A Solar Oven?
Most food cooked in a conventional can also be cooked in a solar oven. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Vegetables: Potatoes, beans, and asparagus are perfect choices. Since they cook slowly in a solar oven, they typically come out perfect every time.
- Baked Pastries: You can break out your baking sheet to cook up a batch of sun-baked pastries. As long as the oven maintains around a 300°F, you should be able to cook a dozen cookies in about half an hour.
- Chicken: Because solar cooking is sometimes finicky, you should always be cautious when cooking meat. Just like cooking at home, never eat undercooked chicken.